To win in college football, you have to be solid in all three phases of the game; offense, defense and special teams. Most people overlook the special teams aspect of success but it is so often the difference between wins and losses on Saturdays in the fall. Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish thought they were in good shape for 2013 with Kyle Brindza anchoring their special teams, but a rough spring game could lead to some worry in South Bend.
Brindza is supposed to take over the punting duties in addition to his role as the place kicker now that Ben Turk has graduated and moved on. That plan may have to be amended, however, after the junior kicker averaged just 30.1 yards per punt over seven punts on the day. His long was a meager 38 yards, which will not cut it if he hopes to hold onto the job long next fall. The Irish are used to getting a bit more out of their punts after Turk averaged over 40 yards per punt each of the last two seasons.
And Brindza’s job as the placekicker may not be safe either. If his punting struggles bleed over into his field goal kicking, he could find it difficult to stay on the field. Nick Tausch returned to the team for his fifth year and had a nice showing during the spring game. After missing his first attempt, he rebounded and nailed his next three further solidifying his reputation among the coaching staff as a guy who can step in and be a contributor.
Brindza’s leash on field goals probably isn’t that long to begin with next season. He missed eight field goals during his sophomore season, including some big ones in high-pressure situations. The Irish need him to bounce back and find his rhythm early next year to give Kelly some level of confidence in the kicking game when they come down to the wire in close games. The mental toll of struggling with the punting duties could turn into a few field goals pushed wide and that could spell unemployment for a kicker with Tausch in the wings.
On a day when Notre Dame saw plenty of positives to take into the summer, Kyle Brindza gave Kelly and his staff something to stew over while the team is away. Is Brindza the answer for the Irish special teams in 2013?